Upon publication of our Open Letter of November 15th, 2016, a firestorm of social media backlash erupted and many people believed that the letter was merely the “Canlit Elite” coming to the rescue of one of its own. Our signatories were called things from “scumbags” to “rape apologists,” and many good people who have strong backgrounds in social justice and feminist issues were then publicly shamed and defamed in the streams of Facebook and Twitter.
In light of the confusion and anger generated we wish to express publicly our commitment to procedural fairness for all participants in this difficult process.
The paramount concern of our signatories was and remains the need for due process. Our request for an independent investigation and a public report made specific reference to Mr. Galloway because his situation clearly demonstrated UBC’s lack of procedural fairness. We took no position about the truth or falsity of any of the actual allegations. Our only concern throughout has been the process through which the allegations were initially addressed by UBC.
Procedural fairness is of fundamental importance regardless of whether the person against whom allegations have been made is blameless or culpable. Flaws in procedural fairness do a disservice to all because they undermine confidence in a system that must respond to very serious, complex and difficult matters.
The majority of the ninety-plus signatories either do not know, or barely know, Mr. Galloway.
We affirm the right of all complainants to be treated with respect and to have their complaints investigated promptly and thoroughly. We are deeply aware that sexual misconduct and abuse has historically been, and continues to be, a problem of epic proportions. We also understand that the rights of victims have often been shamefully neglected and that victims who have come forward with complaints have often been vilified and undermined, intensifying their trauma.
We expect the independent investigation for which we are calling to acknowledge the importance of complainants being treated appropriately and provided with a safe and supportive environment in which to express their concerns. We recognize that students are especially vulnerable and that any investigation must be alertly sensitive to their situation.
We also acknowledge that our original open letter did not express explicitly our concern for all victims of sexual assault and harassment. Our call for an independent investigation was perceived by some as an expression of doubt or criticism directed at complainants in general; we did not intend that implication; we regret that it arose and we hope this statement now makes our intentions clear.
In conclusion, we affirm our request for an independent investigation and a public report. We wish to be clear that any such investigation must address the procedural concerns of all participants, with proper respect and attention to the rights of the complainants as well as those of Mr. Galloway.
A conversation has begun and it will continue to grow. As it moves out of the realm of social media outrage we hope to steer it further into a place where ideas can be respectfully exchanged and all people with valid and well-meaning concerns may contribute and have a voice.
Note: The above letter was written in consultation with sexual assault lawyers, past victims of sexual violence and roughly ten writers from our signatory list who have been active in helping us negotiate the conversation over the last two weeks. This letter is an attempt to respectfully and concisely represent the wide range of opinions that we have heard but due to logistics it was not possible to respond in a timely fashion while taking edits and input from all ninety-plus signatories.
All of our signatories have unique perspectives and motivations for signing the open letter and they have been encouraged to express those (and any deviations or clarifications in regard to statements contained in this letter) through the publication of their own personal statements. But they are united in their desire to see due process upheld for all, and in their call for an inquiry into UBC’s bungled process.